The Occupy D.C. movement descended on the Metropolitan Police Department’s headquarters Monday afternoon to demand an investigation into an incident Friday night, in which four protesters were struck by cars outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center while protesting a meeting of Americans for Prosperity.
One of the protesters, Heidi Sippel, told a crowd at a press conference at 7th and K streets NW that she had suffered a concussion and bruising in the second of two collisions Friday night. Another, who said he was a witness, said the driver of a silver Lexus—one of the cars involved in the collisions—turned on to 7th Street, stopped and “menaced [Occupy DC] for a split-second,” and accelerated to between 20 and 30 miles per hour.
Occupy D.C.’s beef with MPD began after the driver of the Lexus was briefly stopped but then allowed to pass without any citation. Things escalated over the weekend when Assistant Police Chief Lamar Greene appeared to suggest at a press conference that Sippel might have “drunk dove” to the pavement. Sippel, standing beside her wife and 13-year-old son, told the crowd today that she “took great offense” at the insinuation. Members of the group also complained that since Friday, the police had not taken any statements from any of the people involved in the collisions or any witnesses.
From the convention center, Occupy D.C. walked down to MPD headquarters escorted by a buffer of perhaps a dozen police vehicles. The march was mostly peaceful, with the typical chants of “Show us what democracy looks like/This is what democracy looks like” and “No justice/no peace,” turning momentarily testy at the intersection of 7th and F streets where an MPD officer blocking the corner with his motorcycle was greeted by one angry marcher with, “Fuck you! What are you doing?”
At the MPD building, which was ready with a battery of officers barricading the doors, several members of the group repeated their demands to be interviewed as witnesses in the collisions. Like many statements made at Occupy rallies, messages were delivered via the call-and-response system known as the “people’s mic.” Sippel stood at the top of the stairs outside the building and issued most of the requests.
But elsewhere on the pavement, other protesters were less polite than Sippel and turned their ire toward the officers standing guard.
“They’re just following orders,” said one middle-aged woman, who repeatedly attempted to include police officers among the “99 percent” the Occupy movement rallies around.
“This building will be shut down for ever,” shouted Michael Patterson, 21, who aside from the occasional burst of anger kept his mouth hidden by a black bandana. “Fuck them.”
Later on, Arsenio Rodriguez, 24, stood up and claimed he had videotape of an MPD officer putting his hands around the neck of one of the victims of Friday’s crashes.
“You take orders for money and sometimes that hinders humanity,” he said. Rodriguez said he would be uploading the video to YouTube or UStream, but has not yet done so.
The protesters got a response, but not the one they were hoping for, when MPD Chief Cathy Lanier said in a written statement that Occupy D.C. “is no longer a peaceful protest.” The statement came not long after Wade Simmons, a 41-year-old Petworth resident, proclaimed, “Today, we declare war!”
But just before 2:30, things appeared to have changed inside MPD headquarters, as Sippel and others were told they would be allowed to enter and give statements. The crowd let out a cheer, then proceeded to their next destination.
“We are victorious, but not all the way,” Simmons said. “Don’t trust ’em. We’re still going to the Wilson Building.”
Photo by Benjamin R. Freed